ALEXANDER TCHAIKOVSKY (b.1946): Etudes in Simple Tones - Concerto No. 2 for Viola, Symphony Orchestra and Solo Piano (Yuri Bashmet [viola], Ksenia Bashmet [piano]), Concerto for 2 Pianos and Orchestra (Boris Berezovsky, Daria Tchaikovskaya [pianos]), Symphony No. 4 for Choir, Orchestra and Solo Viola (Bashmet [viola], Yurlov Capella Choir). 2 CDs. Moscow Philarmonic Orchestra; Mariss Jansons (live - March 29, 2016).
Catalogue Number: 12X044
Reference: MEL CD 10 02662
Description: Tchaikovsky - nephew of Boris, no relation to Pyotr - is a fine example of the best features of Soviet and post-Soviet tonal composers; emotionally gripping and dramatically powerful of utterance, and accessible of idiom. We offered an orchestral disc in February (02W010), and, unfortunately, half of this set in 2017, so only the symphony and the two short encores are new to disc on this (remastered for better sound) issue. At least three of the composer’s other six symphonies have some programmatic intent, and the nature of the music suggests that this one does too, but in the absence of a single word about the music in the booklet (the CD is documented as a tribute to Jansons), you will have to supply your own. The Fourth Symphony is in a single 25 minute span, divided into four distinct sections. An introductory section presents motivic material, which is then treated somewhat in the manner of sonata form, with a vigorous, mechanistic section with a distinctive rising fanfare motif, in opposition to a flowing, lyrical theme. The movement rises to a powerful climax, which seems indebted to the final eruption of Shostakovich's 4th, then a kind of recapitulation leads to an ultimately inconclusive surging culmination which immediately gives way to an eerie nocturnal landscape full of skeletal rattlings. Cuckoo calls and birdsong emerge from the gloom, suggesting daybreak and Mahlerian nature music like the opening of the First Symphony. Over the first entry of a wordless chorus, adding a rich textural element to the music, a naïve, folk-like melody is heard, and then a long, impassioned viola soliloquy, accompanied by a glowing background of chords from the chorus. A sudden intrusion of battering percussion introduces the next movement, a propulsive allegro, somewhat reminiscent of Shostakovich, punctuated by wild whoops from the choir. The obsessive rhythm becomes increasingly warlike, and finally the hurtling juggernaut crashes into a final climax. This prefaces the symphony's final section, initially calm and expectant, gathering momentum into a triumphant peroration and a final return to the nature landscape of the "second movement", leading to a radiant conclusion. The viola concerto, Etudes, written as a vehicle for Bashmet, strongly resembles a piece of Glassian minimalism, with the viola playing irregular, changing arpeggios, the orchestra joining in after a while with pedal notes and then increasingly richly textured melodic material. The second movement starts in similar vein, the little gestures this time sounding like references to Bach, but soon develops jazz-inflected Schnittkean polystylistic tendencies and Prokofiev-like motoric drive, ending in a post-minimalistic frenzy. A brief interlude that tries, without much success, to be a relaxed little waltz, follows. The jauntily strutting 4th movement begins as a kind of big band blues, suddenly assumes elephantine dimensions, turns into a ragtime duet between viola and piano (the prominent part written into this cadenza to ensure the composer's participation in the work's première), and finally takes on a more menacing aspect. The fifth movement, Adagio, interrupts this, the soloist entering with a long passage of melancholy lyricism. The final section alternately pulsates and swells in a series of climactic false endings, before ending in an unexpected triumphant dance. The exuberant 2-piano concerto borrows liberally from Prokofiev, Shostakovich, neoclassical Stravinsky, and Khachaturian, and excels in the kind of catchily memorable antics that distinguish Kabalevsky's relentlessly engaging works. The slow movement begins with a sense of foreboding, but ends in a mood of lyrical optimism. The propulsive finale pulls out every crowd-thrilling trick in the book to ensure a standing ovation. The piece in memory of the composer’s teacher, Khrennikov, exudes simple melancholy and restrained mourning, with something of the atmosphere of Russian tone poems of the Romantic era. The central section rises out of the gloom in a brief passionate climax, before the elegiac shadows fall again in farewell. And the little Valse? Do you like Khachaturian's Waltz from Masquerade? Here you go, then; v.2.0.